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Divorce legal issues for members of the military

Many Massachusetts residents are members of the military who are on active duty or serve their country as members of a reserve unit. Military personnel are governed or protected by laws and regulations the unique circumstances under which they serve.

When quarrels and disputes signal the end of a marriage, a divorce in which one or both of the spouses is a member of the military raises divorce legal issues that civilian couples might not experience. For instance, the federal Service members Civil Relief Act could delay the start of divorce litigation against a spouse who is on active duty with the military.

The SCRA was enacted to protect active-duty members of the military from having to defend lawsuits in order to allow them to focus on their military obligations. It also takes into consideration the fact that service members are frequently overseas while on active duty. The law applies for up to 60 days after the person is no longer on active duty.

Child support, spousal support and military benefits are other issues in a divorce for which there are special rules applicable to service members. As with pensions and other benefits that civilians receive, benefits received by military members are subject to property division and support requirements of a divorce.

The Uniformed Services Former Spouses’ Protection Act allows courts in Massachusetts to treat military pensions the same as other pension benefits. However, individuals married to a member of the military for at least 10 years during which time their spouses were members of the military for at least 10 years may receive their share of a military pension directly from the government.

The USFSPA also provides medical and commissary privileges to spouses married for at least 20 years to former members of the military who accrued at least 20 years of service. There 20 years of marriage must coincide with the years of military service.

A divorce and family law attorney in Worcester, Massachusetts can provide legal advice to a person concerned about military benefits and support in a divorce. The attorney can also assist in enforcing support obligations against a member of the military.

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